As the Tama-Benton Cooperative celebrates their 100 year anniversary, they are also busily building and preparing for their next 100 years in business. The Co-op has made noticeable improvements to their Dysart location. Whether making repairs to their facilities, applying new paint to their existing buildings, building a new grain dryer or starting construction on a new dry fertilizer plant, the Co-op is certainly improving their appearance in Dysart.
The largest project in Dysart is the dry fertilizer plant, which is on the western edge of town. The current dry fertilizer plant, located near the Co-op offices, was severely damaged during the wind storm in July 2011. The existing plant is 40 years old, outdated and worn out. The Co-op planned to build a new facility, but the storm damage sped the process up by a few years, making immediate change necessary.
The new dry fertilizer plant is massive and built to last, featuring cement fiberboard siding. Measuring 66' wide by 180' long and 53' to the peak, with 100' x 66' of that space for storage alone, it has the capacity to store 5,660 tons of dry fertilizer, almost six times what the existing plant can hold. The remaining portion of the building will have a small office area, a mixing area with two 14-ton vertical mixers, and a load out area. There is also a receiving building that is 40' long x 20' wide.
The new fertilizer plant for the Tama-Benton Cooperative is being built on the western edge of town, and based on the looks of things, is ahead of schedule. Above, the building got most of its exterior walls put up in the past few weeks. At left, abundant storage space inside the plant.
The new dry fertilizer plant will take the place of three fertilizer plants. "We are centralizing our Agronomy Departments from the three locations to here. It will be a lot more efficient," said General Manager Mel Campbell. The other two Co-op locations are not shutting down; they are simply moving the Agronomy Departments to Dysart and all other locations will function as normal. The Co-op is spending a total of $8.5 million on projects at their locations in Dysart, Clutier and Vinton, the dry fertilizer plant project in Dysart alone is an estimated $1.5 million.
One of the greatest features of the new plant is that the receiving and load out areas will be covered. "To be able to unload fertilizer when it rains and to be able to do it in 10 minutes versus an hour is going to be unbelievable. It will be safer," said Campbell. With the latest safety features in place, the facility will not only make a safer work environment for employees, but will be environmentally friendly and up to current city, county, state and federal codes.
Local residents who live on Estelle Street will be happy to hear about the 14' x 80' scale that is being built at the new location. "I think it will make us a lot better neighbors. We used to have to bring the ammonia tanks up to the main office and weigh them because everything has to pass over the scale. The tanks would bang and clatter down Estelle Street. We weren't very good neighbors. Now all of that can be done on site and a lot of traffic will not even be coming through town," said Campbell.
The Co-op previously owned three acres of land at the location of the new building. They purchased 10 more acres for their Agronomy Center, which will be built in three phases. In the future, the Co-op plans to add a liquid facility and a maintenance shop.
Stueve Construction Co., out of Algona, IA, is overseeing the construction, which began in mid-April. The Co-op has tried to use as much local business as they can. They have hired Hatch Grading to do the grading and excavating, Weber Heating, Plumbing, and Air Conditioning is doing the HVAC work and Wauters Electric is the electrical contractor.
The project has taken the cooperation of everyone involved. "I'd like to praise the board for their vision and forward thinking. The board has really worked hard this last year," said Campbell, "And the city has also been good to work with. The city council has been really great to help us get the area rezoned, get the building permit and with bringing utilities to the site. We really appreciate working with them and all of their efforts."
A new Zimmerman dryer has been installed near the Co-op main office. The new dryer has twice the capacity and twice the efficiency of the 1972 model that it replaces. The estimated cost of the dryer is $350,000.
All Dysart projects are scheduled to be completed by July 28, in time for their 100 year anniversary celebration. This year, the Co-op is co-sponsoring the Old Iron Days Tractor Cruise, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. There will be a 100 mile tractor ride and a shorter 60 mile ride in which they are hoping to get at least 100 tractors to participate in.
On July 28, the tractors will finish their ride in Dysart with a Dysart Lions Tenderloin Supper. At 7:00 p.m., the Co-op will host a barn dance at the new agronomy site. There will be music, refreshments and tours of the plant, which includes walking on the catwalk towards the peak of the building. There will also be wagon rides taking people out to see the new dryer. The Tama Benton Co-op extends an invitation to all its members and friends to attend the celebration. Everyone in Dysart and the surrounding area is invited to stop by and check out the new facility.
The Co-op is optimistic about the next 100 years. "100 years for any business is truly a great milestone, but for a co-operative, especially, to survive the last 20 years is unbelievable, to not be gobbled up by some of these mega co-ops that now have 40-60 locations. We are definitely one of the smaller ones in this day and age," said Campbell.
The Co-op is building, not just for today, but for a bright future during their next 100 years.